From undergraduate engineering to Ph.D.

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Sarah Bauer and Sara Davis enter fully-funded Ph.D. programs in engineering at the University of Virginia.

The Vegas odds wouldn’t have been good on this.

Two friends from the College of Engineering, Sarah Bauer and Sara Davis, have been accepted into the Ph.D. program at the University of Virginia. Not only have they been accepted, but both will begin fully-funded doctoral programs and they’ll room together when they settle down in Charlottesville later this summer.

Bauer, 22, a civil and environmental engineering major from Woolwich Township, tapped into a love for research at Rowan with the study of algae-derived biofuels. At U. Va. she’ll focus on environmental engineering, conducting research with a faculty member into water and wastewater treatment processes.

Davis, 22, an electrical and computer engineering major from Westfield, may continue work in signal processing and communications, a field she explored through classes and in an internship with Verizon in Basking Ridge.

Both exceptional students – Bauer is graduating cum laude and Davis magna cum laude, and both graduates of the Bantivoglio Honors Concentration – the two completed numerous graduate school applications in the midst of their very demanding senior year.

“As we were applying we said ‘how weird would it be if we both got into the same school and became roommates?’” Davis said. “Somehow we did it and I’m very glad it worked out that way.”

Research oriented

Bauer, who explored the untapped potential of algae-derived biofuels at Rowan with Dr. Kauser Jahan, said the extensive research experience she gained as an undergraduate appealed to the faculty at U. Va.

“The idea was to study the potential of microalgae as a feasible biofuel source,” she said. “It grows all over the world in any body of fresh water and produces lipids, a fatty acid, that are unsaturated. Because these lipids require little treatment before they can be converted to a biofuel researchers are actively looking at them.”

Davis, who interviewed with several U. Va. faculty members, said her research might involve the fields of fingerprint and facial recognition, an area she also explored at Rowan.

She said Rowan’s clinics program, a hallmark of the College of Engineering, gave her hands-on experience that impressed U. Va.

“The professors at Rowan try to gear you toward graduate school,” she said. “And if they saw that you could do more, they’d encourage it. It definitely made me want to do better and I did.”

In addition to the required clinics programs, both students took advantage of extracurricular engineering activities. Both were involved with the Society of Women Engineers, in which Bauer is a former president, and Davis was active in the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, a club on campus, and Bauer in the American Society of Civil Engineering.

Associate Dean Steven Chin said he expects brilliance from Bauer and Davis, whatever path they follow.

“Rowan’s engineering program is gaining national recognition for its ability to generate students who are ready to make contributions in important research areas and Sarah Bauer and Sara Davis are shining examples,” Dr. Chin said.

As they leave Rowan and prepare for their five-year doctoral program, Davis and Bauer believe they already know what they want to do when it’s done.

Said Bauer: “I’ll get my Ph.D. and hopefully be offered a faculty position in environmental engineering at a university. Ultimately I want to become dean of a college of engineering.”

Said Davis: “I really like industry so that’s where I want to start. Eventually I’d like to become a professor and teach too.”

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